Vanitas

2009-10

 

Aplastic video

Iron, projector, lenses, liver

duration: pathetic loop

 

Through the big iron pipe with lenses inside, the slide is projected
on a wall. The audience can also see the magnified yet distorted
image inside the pipe. The projector lamp, meanwhile, gradually
cooks the liver. Little by little the liver burns, decays and turns to powder.

 

1. Video art is supposed to be a live form of art, yet looped videos, being apathetic and unchangeable, like deities living in timelessness, are incapable of dealing with anything human, ephemeral and mortal. Light art too, can be considered live art, if only for the reason that, when, for instance, Dan Flavin’s fluorescent tubes die, we don’t care to replace them. Videos can be considered live art if only inanimate still-life is living art incarnate. The exact paradox is found throughout the history of Vanitas. Vanitas is supposed to manifest the ephemerality of our lives: memento mori. But it seems that throughout history artists of this genre – like those recently gathered in the exhibition “Vanities; from Pompeii to Damien Hirst” at Musée Maillol – have frequently unlearned ephemerality, death and decay, since they have mostly tried to create undying, imperishable works of art. Vanitas as a genre, with a handful of exceptions, fails to live up to its own promise of death. It has become a mere representation of skulls, clocks and sandglasses, fading flowers and decaying foods. So where should one look for mortality in one’s life? I believe that video, if truly looped, could be the medium that can solve the paradox of Vanitas from within.

 

2. If one gazes into perfect loops, one would see the desire for immortality, or one would see that the spirit is immortal, if you prefer; but if one turns about, one sees that something is indeed suffering, something enduring the pathē, something is dying on gradually: a projector, cathode ray tubes, a VCR, et cetera. When the transfinite video is the apathetic soul, incapable of the pathē; insensible to any experience of suffering, the projector or the cathode ray tubes or the player function as the pathetic flesh, the very flesh of the work of art, a flesh tormented during répétitions that curators (classic ones, custodians) have to cure during a three month projection. In looped videos the living actor is the projector.

 

3. Claudia Gian Ferrari was an Italian gallerist and collector with a collection of unique Vanitas works of art and skulls (in the photo she is wearing a famous Codognato ring). The last gallery she opens is her neighbour’s house. The neighbour had killed his wife and had thrown her liver into the courtyard. Claudia rents his house and turns it into a gallery. Later she donates her assets to museums, then comes to Iran. Barbad Golshiri meets her. Claudia buys his Handjob, an ephemeral work of art, a to-be-vanished writing on a crumpled paper (soon to be fingered by a lawyer butchering Claudia’s inheritance and assets and wondering if it is in fact a work of art). They decide to work together. Claudia goes back to Italy and realises that she's suffering from pancreas cancer. Golshiri goes to Milan to visit her and decides to dedicate his solo at Caludia’s gallery to her last days. The work consisted of a large chunk of wax at the centerof the space on which Claudia is to engrave her presence in the presence or absence of the viewers. She would then receive her friends and the audience in gatherings where they could enter her house witness her last moments. Golshiri and Olka Hedayatvisit Claudia when she is just back from a chemo session. She suffers from dry mouth, nausea and dehydration and cannotstand the smell of food, yet stands and starts to cook liver for them. Olka helps her. Claudia cuts her hand with a knife. The blood doesn’t coagulate easily. Olka never eats liver. That day she does. Claudia doesn’t make it to the opening. She dies.

 

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